Save the Children partnership


Group releasing Save the Children balloons
School children in grade five at Meles Sanka Elementary School. Photo: Colin Crowley

Almost 6 million children under the age of five die every year from preventable diseases. Since 2000, significant progress has been made globally to reduce the rate of child deaths, however more needs to be done to prevent children dying unnecessarily.

Making a change

In 2013 we embarked on an ambitious global partnership with Save the Children to share our expertise and resources with the aim of helping to save one million children’s lives.

5.9 million

children under 5 died in 2015 from preventable diseases

The partnership goes well beyond the traditional charity corporate fundraising model. We are combining our capabilities in R&D, supply chain, procurement and vaccines with Save the Children’s expertise working with the most vulnerable children.

Specifically, the GSK and Save the Children partnership focuses on:

  • improving access to basic healthcare – prevention and treatment – where the need is greatest
  • training and equipping health workers in the poorest communities
  • developing child-friendly medicines
  • working at local and global levels to call for stronger child health policies

Since launching our partnership, we have reached over 1.3 million children. Over 23,500 under-fives have been fully immunised, over 125,000 children have been treated for diarrhoea, malaria or pneumonia, and over one million children have been screened for malnutrition.

Newborn - Save the children
Bianca, six hours old, in Kopsiro Health Facility in Bungoma County Kenya. Photo: Colin Crowley

A new way of working

GSK and Save the Children partnership logo

Beginning with programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Kenya, we are developing programmes to tackle child mortality and to establish models that can be adopted, expanded and replicated in other developing countries.

Our ambition is to share a blueprint for a new way of working, transforming the traditional fundraising NGO/corporate model.

Together, we’ll also use our influence to call for improved policy and practice, and increased international investment in children’s health.

GSK and Save the Children in DRC

The first of our joint programmes is being rolled out in the DRC. Devastated by political and social instability for decades, the DRC is experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. It is ranked 168th out of 169 countries in the Human Development Index and life expectancy is low at just 46 years old. The majority of the population lack access to basic services and half of the 66 million population live on less than $1 a day.

The health challenges in DRC, including high levels of infectious diseases, are made more difficult because of gaps in human resources at all levels of the health system – there is just one doctor and only five nurses per 10,000 people. Child mortality rates are among the highest in Africa, with over 400, 000 children dying before the age of five each year, mainly from preventable diseases.

Bungoma mountains
A rural area in Bungoma County, Kenya. Photo: Colin Crowley

Working with Save the Children, the government of DRC and communities, the programme will deliver an integrated package of essential services for neonatal, maternal and child health. This includes strengthening current systems and infrastructure, to ensure that basic health and nutrition services, and  equipment, supplies and suitably trained staff are accessible to effectively treat common childhood diseases.

GSK has committed £9m to support this programme, which began in April 2013.

GSK and Save the Children in Kenya

Nearly 25% of the 39 million people who live in Kenya survive on less than $1.25 a day, and of those more than 40% are under 15 years old. Across the country, one child in ten dies before their fifth birthday and in the slums of the capital Nairobi and the rural north, this figure is much higher.

Through our partnership we have committed to support Save the Children Kenya’s newborn child survival programme. The programme focuses on improving health systems in order to reduce preventable diseases and to address under five child mortality. In addition to funding this programme, we are making a significant investment through Save the Children’s business, prioritising and progressing the research and development of vital medicines and products to reduce preventable diseases and child mortality.

We have committed over £4m to support this programme, which has so far trained over 570 community health workers, set up 57 community health units and refurbished over 33 maternity centres.

2016 Healthcare Innovation Award

On 23 February 2016, GSK and Save the Children revealed the winners of their third annual US$1 million Healthcare Innovation Award, which recognises innovations from developing countries that are helping to reduce deaths among children under five. 

A paperless immunisation records system in Vietnam won the largest share of the award, followed by a foil pouch for accurately giving HIV medicines to newborns in Ecuador; an integrated care package for mothers and newborns in Kenya; and a tool for better understanding child deaths in South Africa.

The award is a major initiative of GSK and Save the Children’s five-year partnership, through which the two organisations are combining their resources, voice and expertise to help save one million children’s lives. Innovation – be that developing child-friendly medicines or working together in new ways to respond to humanitarian crises – is fundamental to the partnership and improving children’s prospects. As such, the partnership has sought to identify innovations that are making a tangible difference to children’s health, and enable them to share and replicate their approach, through the award. Since 2013, more than a dozen inventive approaches have been recognised.

Lisa Bonadonna, Head of the GSK-Save the Children partnership, said: “When we embarked on our partnership – and the Healthcare Innovation Award – we set out to identify brilliant ideas, born in developing countries, which are helping to save children’s lives. These latest inspiring innovations are doing that by strengthening healthcare systems and improving access to healthcare for mothers and children in some of the most underserved communities. We look forward to seeing them scale up and share their fantastic ideas, as previous winners have already gone on to do.” 

Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, Director of Programme Policy and Quality at Save the Children and a member of the award judging panel, added: “This year’s Healthcare Innovation Award applicants have once again demonstrated the best solutions for complex problems are often created by people affected by or closest to the problem. The pioneering healthcare solutions that the panel selected are already helping to save children’s lives in communities. I am confident that through the recognition and funding from this award, these winning innovations can be replicated to help make a bigger impact for the world’s most vulnerable children.”

As well as recognising innovations that help reduce child deaths, the third award adopted a special focus on strengthening health systems. With millions of people still lacking access to basic healthcare, the award recognised innovations that have proven to help increase access to public healthcare for pregnant women, mothers and children under five. Selected from more than 100 entries in 26 countries by a judging panel comprising health experts from across the globe, the winners are:

PATH, Vietnam - $400,000 awarded for Immreg, a system which brings immunisation records into the digital age in Vietnam. Rather than handwriting records, which can be time-consuming and prone to error, health workers in the Ben Tre province now use a computer or smart phone to monitor vaccine stocks; register pregnant women and newborns; and track what vaccines they have received. They can also remind mothers via text message to get vaccinations for them or their child. This is saving health workers’ valuable time and improving access to vaccination. Immreg has cut the time to generate monthly lists of children due for vaccination from one to two days to just 5-30 minutes. Rates of full immunisation in the first year of life increased from 74.3 to 77.8% in a one-year pilot.

Fundación VIHDA, Ecuador - $226,600 awarded for their innovative use of the ‘Pratt Pouch’. This foil pouch – similar to a fast-food ketchup sachet – offers a more accurate and efficient way for mothers to give HIV medicines to a newborn. One of the ways to reduce the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child is through the administration of antiretroviral medicines to a newborn immediately after birth and for the first weeks of life.[1] But it can be difficult for parents to measure out the correct dose from a bottle of liquid medicine. Early results indicate that the Pratt Pouch – which is filled with the exact amount of medicine needed per dose – has improved dosing accuracy from 50% to over 90% of mothers delivering highly accurate doses. Mothers surveyed indicated that they found it simple to use, more durable and less wasteful.

2020 MicroClinic Initiative, Kenya - $176,600 awarded for Operation Karibu, a ‘welcome programme’ of care for new mothers. The first 48 hours of life is the most crucial period for newborn survival[2] so access to healthcare is important at this time. ‘OpK’ has identified three ways to encourage pregnant women to seek medical care before, during and after birth. Women who give birth in the clinic, attended by a skilled professional, are given a set of baby clothes, including onesies made from recycled cotton t-shirts; emergency transport to the clinic is made available; and a birth companion of the woman’s choice is offered training in caring for an infant. Mothers and newborns are monitored via electronic case management for the first 30 days. Over the three-year programme, no maternal or neonatal deaths have been recorded in any of the OpK sites.

SA MRC Maternal and Infant Health Care, South Africa - $176,600 awarded for ‘Child PIP’, an audit tool for careful review of infant and child deaths in South African hospitals. The primary aim is to enable local healthcare teams to understand the causes of child mortality in their area, in order to improve quality of care. The system allows for all deaths to be identified and for important information to be collected. This includes details on the child’s health and the main cause or causes of death. By identifying previously unseen patterns and ways in which healthcare processes could be changed, the tool has been used to help individual hospitals and the healthcare system as a whole to adapt and improve care for children. Child PIP is now used by healthcare teams in more than half of public hospitals and in all of the country’s nine provinces. Next steps for Child PIP include strengthening the programme and extending it to collect information about deaths in the community. 

Commenting on the award, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, former Chief Medical Officer in England and a member of the judging panel, said: "The creativity and can-do spirit of the applicants for the award, many working in the poorest parts of the world, was deeply inspiring. It is vital that such innovative projects are identified, evaluated and the benefits shared widely".

With their award funding, the winners plan to scale up their innovations so they can further improve access to healthcare. For example, 2020 MicroClinic Initiative will use the funding to scale up operations and demonstrate the impact of OpK on 1,500 babies in rural settings. PATH will expand Immreg to an additional province in Vietnam and also adapt the system to tackle child malnutrition. Immreg will monitor key nutrition indicators such as a child’s weight, height and vitamin A deficiencies. Parents will be sent targeted nutrition messages by text, as well as vaccination reminders. It is estimated this will help improve immunisation coverage and nutrition for 194,425 children under five.

Mona Byrkit, PATH Mekong Programme leader, said: “The Healthcare Innovation Award funding will enable us to take Immreg to another level, expanding functionality to improve nutrition and protecting even more children from vaccine-preventable disease.”

Notes to editors:

About the GSK-Save the Children partnership:

In May 2013, GSK and Save the Children formed a groundbreaking partnership to help save the lives of one million children. Since then, we have been working together closely on initiatives including developing child-friendly medicines, increasing access to medicines and vaccines, and training health workers. Some key milestones include:

  • Submitting a regulatory application for an antiseptic gel for preventing umbilical cord infection in newborns with the European Medicines Agency. The antiseptic gel is intended exclusively for use in developing countries and, if approved for use, GSK will offer it at a not-for-profit price and will share its manufacturing knowledge with others to enable it to be made locally.
  • As well as supporting Save the Children’s response to humanitarian emergencies, including the Ebola outbreak, the Nepal earthquake and the current refugee crisis, GSK has supported Save the Children’s innovative Emergency Health Unit – a team of healthcare experts who can be deployed to an emergency to give healthcare to children on the ground within 72 hours.
  • Two flagship programmes to help improve access to maternal and child healthcare have been established in Kenya and the DRC. These include training health workers; community education; and strengthening referral systems.


Further information on the winning organisations:

PATH: An international nonprofit organization, PATH accelerates innovation across five platforms – vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations. The organisation has a long history of working to improve under-5 child survival in Vietnam, working in 28 out of 63 provinces.

Fundación VIHDA, Ecuador: A non-profit created in 2006 to work primarily in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Their work is implemented in the largest maternity hospital in Ecuador. The Pratt Pouch was originally developed by Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering; Fundación VIHDA worked with them to test, modify, and deliver the pouch.

2020 MicroClinic Initiative, Kenya: OpK is a program of 2020 MicroClinic Initiative (2020 MCI), launched in Kenya in 2012. It has directly impacted over 2,500 mothers and infants to date. A related innovation from Microclinic Technologies was a winner of the Healthcare Innovation Award in 2013. ‘ZiDi’ – a mobile health management system – was recognised for helping to improve the quality of maternal and child care by providing access to real-time data to improve health-planning decisions.

SA MRC Maternal and Infant Health Care Strategies Research Unit, South Africa: Child PIP is implemented by a network of public sector health care workers, under the leadership and management of the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) Maternal and Infant Health Care Strategies Research Unit at the University of Pretoria. This unit was established in September 1997 and strives to improve the quality of life of South African mothers and their babies.


Previous winners:

Previous winners of the Healthcare Innovation Award have gone on to expand and replicate their approach. Some examples include:

  • In 2013, a device that eases the breathing of babies in respiratory distress won the top award. It was developed by the College of Medicine/Friends of Sick Children, Malawi and Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies. They are rolling out the technology and providing training in teaching hospitals across Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. Needs assessment and training have been undertaken in all three countries; 14 hospitals have received units and continue to receive follow-up support from the project.
  • Mobile health management system, ZiDiTM, was recognised in 2013 for its ability to improve the quality of maternal and child care by providing access to real-time data to support health planning decisions. The Kenya Ministry of Health adopted ZiDiTM Pro as part the national e-health platform in February 2014.
  • Living Goods, Uganda were recognised in 2014 for their model which enables skilled micro-entrepreneurs to travel door-to-door teaching families how to improve their health, and diagnosing and treating patients. They also sell products such as fortified foods. In 2015, Living Goods grew from 1,000 to 3,700 community health promoters in Uganda, more than tripling the number of families served. 

A full list of previous winners is available here:

Further information on Healthcare Innovation Award funding:

 $20,200 of the $1 million award fund has been set aside for the Employee Choice Award – to be selected by GSK and Save the Children employees.

Judging panel for the third GSK-Save the Children Healthcare Innovation Award:

Sir Michael Rawlins – Chairman of the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency since December 2014.  Chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) from 1999 until 2012.

Professor Parveen June Kumar CBE –Professor of Medicine and Education, hon. Consultant gastroenterologist, Barts and the London School of Medicine, University of London. 

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson – WHO Director-General's envoy on patient safety, and chair in Health Policy at the Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College.  Chief Medical Officer for England and the UK’s Chief Medical Adviser from 1998 to 2010. 

Lord Naren Patel – Member of the House of Lords and Council Member of the Medical Research Council.  Former Professor of Obstetrics & Consultant Obstetrician, Ninewells Hospital, University of Dundee and current University of Dundee Chancellor. 

Dr Mushtaque Chowdhury – Vice Chair of BRAC.  Previously served as BRAC’s Executive Director.  Founding Director of the Research and Evaluation Division and founding Dean of the James P. Grant School of Public Health.

Dr Titilola Banjoko – Healthcare manager with a clinical background. She serves on the council of the Royal African Society and is a Fellow of the Nigerian Leadership Initiative where she serves on its executive board.

Professor Pamela Hartigan – Director of the Skoll Centre at The University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School and co-founder of London-based Volans Ventures.

Professor Joy Lawn - Professor of Maternal, Reproductive and Child Health and Director of the MARCH Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Professor Alejandro Madrigal – Professor of Haematology, Royal Free Hospital & UCL Cancer Institute; Scientific Director, Anthony Nolan Research Institute and UCL Pro-Vice-Provost for Latin-America.

Ramil Burden (GSK) – VP, General Manager, Malaysia and Brunei

Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi (Save the Children) - Director of Programme Policy and Quality

[1] ‘Antiretroviral drugs for treating pregnant women and preventing HIV infection in infants: Recommendations for a public health approach’, 2010, WHO (accessed 22 February 2016)

Past Healthcare Innovation Award Winners

Winners of the 2014 Award

From over 100 applications received from 37 countries, 10 were shortlisted for final review by the judging panel, which awarded funding to the following four organisations for a variety of innovations in healthcare systems, e-health and technology solutions, and community programmes:

University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa - $370,000

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) received one of the top prizes for its ground-breaking, low-cost system, called ‘FoneAstra’, which enables the safe pasteurisation and storage of donated human breast milk for premature babies. The FoneAstra human milk pasteurisation toolkit, originally developed by the University of KwaZulu-Natal in collaboration with health NGO PATH and the University of Washington, uses a mobile phone app to provide a step-by-step guide through the pasteurisation process and makes it easier to track and trace donor milk for increased quality control and assurance. It can be adapted for use in settings with no electricity. Up to 25% of premature or low birthweight babies cannot get sufficient breast milk from their mothers, often for reasons of illness or low supply, which leaves them more vulnerable to life threatening conditions such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and neonatal sepsis.

ColaLife, Zambia - $370,000

Joint first prize winner, ColaLife Zambia, won its share of the Award for its innovative ‘Kit Yamoyo’ (‘Kit of Life’), which brings affordable diarrhoea treatment to families in remote rural areas using the supply and distribution networks normally used to transport soft drinks. Diarrhoea is one of the world’s biggest killers of children under five. It can be simply treated using oral rehydration salts (ORS) and Zinc, yet less than 1% of children in sub-Saharan Africa receive the treatment.

ColaLife’s low-cost treatment kit contains 200ml sachets of ORS, a container to measure the correct amount of water, 10 zinc tablets and soap. It is promoted through rural health centres by community health workers and delivered by trained local village-based micro-retailers. Retailers travel to the nearest district town to buy the kits the same way they do for other fast moving consumer goods such as Coca-Cola, cooking oil, salt and sugar.

Living Goods, Uganda - $120,000

Living Goods’ entrepreneurial model mirrors direct sales techniques used by cosmetics firms like ‘Avon’. Skilled micro-entrepreneurs known as Community Health Promoters, who work closely with local health authorities, operate as franchisees. The health promoters travel door-to-door teaching families how to improve their health, and diagnosing and treating patients. They also sell health products such as bed nets, deworming pills, anti-malaria and diarrhoea treatments, fortified foods, and water filters.

University of Nairobi, Kenya - $120,000

This community health initiative was rewarded for its innovative bar-coded Vaccination/Mother-Child Wellness Card that tracks vaccinations and rewards mothers with discounts on farm products. Child immunisation is seen as a critical measure to reduce death rates in children under five which currently stand at 71 per 1,000 live births in Kenya[1].The vaccination card automatically updates when a newborn is registered and each time the child and/or mother receives a vaccine.  It then allows the mother discounts on farm products, such as seeds and fertilizer, from Agrovets shops run by the University’s partner agency.


The following organisations from Africa, Asia and Latin America won a share of the 2013 Award:

Friends of Sick Children, Malawi - $400,000

Friends of Sick Children is a partnership between the Paediatric Department at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, Rice University's ’s Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies in the United States, and University of Malawi College of Medicine. Their ‘baby bubble’ – or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device (bCPAP) - is a low-cost adaptation of a device proven to help newborn babies in respiratory distress, designed specifically for low-resource settings.

BRAC, Bangladesh - $300,000

BRAC’s ‘Manoshi’ programme delivers a comprehensive package of health services for women and children in the urban slums of Dhaka and consists of three key innovations: safe, clean delivery centres in slum areas, access to emergency health care, home visits by health workers who record vital patient information.

MUSO, Mali - $100,000

MUSO, Mali, implements a system designed to support the early identification of women and children in need of healthcare, before their symptoms escalate to a more serious condition. The system includes door-to-door health visits by community health workers, training and education programmes for local leaders and communities

Microclinic Technologies, Kenya - $100,000

Microclinic Technologies’  ‘ZiDi’ is a mobile health management system designed to improve the quality of maternal and child care by providing access to real-time data to improve health-planning decisions. ZiDi is currently being used in over 5,000 health facilities in Kenya.

Kangaroo Foundation (Fundacion Canguro), Colombia - $100,000

Kangaroo Mother Care is a simple technique which promotes early skin-to-skin contact between mothers and their premature and newborn babies. Mothers act as human incubators, keeping their babies warm and regulating their heartbeats.

[1] Source: World Bank -